I think I have discovered what PEMRA’s problem is. It is one they obviously share with the mysterious complainants who lodged their protest so strongly that PEMRA pulled the drama serial ‘Udaari’ off the air after only five episodes. They hate children. For those not in the know, ‘Udaari’ was made with the assistance of the indomitable Kashf Foundation, and explores the emotional fallout of child abuse within families. We all watch television and we know that a plot hardly moves at lightning speed after five episodes. And yet viewers have already found enough content to make them sick to their teeth. It is awful, they cry. The show is giving the criminal-minded ideas, and polluting “our society”! If there was ever a phrase I could send on a long walk off a short cliff, it’s “our society”, followed by “our culture”. The malignant thing is pulled out at the drop of a hat. Wearing jeans is against “our culture”. “Our society” does not include child molesters. Let’s ask some Kasuri or Swati parents about child molestation, shall we?

The truth of “our society” is that we actually just don’t like our children. We couldn’t care less about them. It’s all a nice song-and-dance we lead our women, have children, have sons. But all we care about is stamping the shajra, really. All we care about is being able to lay claim to the fact of a child: I have sons, I have daughters, I have grandchildren. They are trophies to collect, and once they are born we don’t give a toss about them. That’s why we’re fine with the idea of employing ten year olds in our houses, why the government is half-hearted about free schooling and why kids die of diahorrea, in this day and age. And that is PEMRA’s problem, and that is our problem. For you see, as anyone with even half a brain or an ounce of logic would be able to syllogise, if you have a child, you are responsible for their safety, whether you want to do it or not. It’s on you now. I truly believe that children are our collective responsibility, and we aren’t just meant to be concerned with ours but with all children. And this is what nobody ever tells you about parenthood: it is terrifying. Everyone keeps painting rosy pictures of apple-cheeked tots holding out their chubby arms to you, or lovingly pressing your feet when you’re old, and conveniently forget to mention the blood and terror and stomach-lurching anxiety you have for a child. That includes having to grit your teeth and face some ugly truths if it means protecting a child from possible harm. You might be quaking inside, your blood turned to ice, but you keep your feet firm, because a small person is depending on you. That is how parents are able to drive bleeding children to hospitals, to leave abusive spouses and to protect their children from people who would harm them. You would have to be a prize coward and a chump to let your fear be the reason a child’s life be permanently scarred.

And that is why PEMRA’s action is so reprehensible. The tragedy of our state is that the people in charge are the most reactionary and close-minded of them all. So what if a handful of people complained? People complain about everything under the sun, contrariness is a fact of life. You cannot please everybody all of the time. But you can certainly use that logic mentioned previously, and make informed, rational decisions: does the good of something outweigh the bad? Is the offended sensibility of a few good enough reason to shut down one of the few television shows airing that can help start important conversations, to spread awareness and most vital of all: show a ghastly, repulsive crime exactly for what it is? There are already far too many dramas that continue to normalise—and worse, romanticise—hideous crimes like rape onscreen. PEMRA obviously doesn’t care about the degradation of women and evidently viewers also believe rape and physical abuse is perfectly within the norms of “our society”. But at least spare the children. At least let one thing through that could alert parents about how to deal with child abuse, how to identify troubling behaviour on part of potentially abusive adults, how to talk to a child who has been molested. It is rampant in “our society”. Too many children are being treated like garbage in this country, in this “culture” we think we are the custodians of. We are betraying our children when we turn our back on them like this. We are telling them they deserve it, that they are dispensable, that they don’t matter. What kind of adults will they turn into? Will we then too just wring our hands in our pathetic pseudo-piety, having unleashed monsters into the world? It’s all right to be scared and nervous. It’s fine to be scandalised. But the definition of courage is to do the right thing, even if you are afraid or shocked. The definition of jihad is to stand for justice. By taking “Udaari” off the air, PEMRA has thrown its lot in with the cowards. Don’t be one yourself.